Data scientists and open knowledge evangelist Paola Masuzza shares with Jo what Open Science means to her, and how Open Science and Research Integrity relate to each other. We talk about the influence that the late Jon Tennant had on each of our careers and look at the next steps for the Open Science MOOC as it is being migrated to the Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education (IGDORE).

Personal profiles

ORCID iD: 0000-0003-3699-1195 

Website: theyjustwriteitoff.blogspot.com 

Twitter: @pcmasuzzo

Linkedin: /paola-chiara-masuzzo-572a1428 

Figshare: /authors/Paola_Masuzzo/736785

Paola Masuzzo

Born in Sicily more than 3 decades ago, Paola is a full time data scientist, a half time independent researcher and a half time open knowledge evangelist.

Yes, she wishes days had more hours. 

She moved to Belgium 10 years ago to do a PhD in Bioinformatics at Ghent University. During her PhD, she got to understand for the very first time how scientific production works, and she was confronted with the reality that the whole process, from initial steps to final publication, isn’t really fit for purpose. She worked on her thesis project on cancer cell migration and open data and computational algorithms, but she also started at the same time advocating for open access, first, and open science as we know it, later.

In those prolific years, she became a Research Data Alliance fellow and a ContentMine fellow, she founded the civic lab Ghent and started working with Jon Tennant on the very first Open Science MOOC ever.

She also wrote several articles on scholarly communication, on tips and resources to practice open science, and on the benefits of open access. 

There was no coming back. She clearly saw the immense power that comes from freeing up research, and she became an open knowledge evangelist, like her bio on Twitter says. 

After her PhD, she started a postdoc, and shortly later she took a job as a data scientist in the private sector. She then joined IGDORE, the Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education, to continue her research independently. This means she doesn’t have a traditional academic affiliation anymore, which can be challenging at times, but also gives her the opportunity and the privilege to speak her voice freely when it comes to reforming the academic culture.

Within IGDORE, where she serves as part of the Global Board, she would like to create a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment for people willing to perform research away from the ivory towers. She also would like very much to develop a curriculum with open educational resources accessible to everyone, in many languages. 

Again, she wishes days were longer. 

She’s a great fan of Open Data, and an associate of on Data, an Italian organization that promotes the publication and reuse of public data. 

In the last couple of years, her advocacy activities have shifted more and more towards the values that need to drive the global transition to open science. We know the what and the how, she says, now it’s time to clearly see the why, and to show true commitment to open research practices.  

She loves magazines, and has seen Seinfeld, the show, a ridiculous amount of times. She’s a feminist, enjoys the summer, hates the cold, and only functions with a good dose of caffeine in her blood.  

Photo credits: Paola Masuzzo – “Selected images from my house.”

TRANSCRIPT

Jo: You are listening to Access 2 Perspectives Conversations. My name is Jo Havemann and with me today is Paola. Hi, Paola. 

Paola: Hi there.

Jo: Yeah, we met a couple of years ago. We were introduced by our common friend, now sadly deceased for two years now, Jon Tenant. We’re going to talk about him and his influence on both of our work in a bit. So we’re here to talk about open science explicitly. And those who have listened to this podcast for a while probably know some of my interpretations with Open Science. I think what you and I also shared, at the end of the day, we’re talking about good research practice and also how can that be facilitated with digital tools? And yet, there’s so much to talk about when it comes to open Science, and we’d love to hear your take on the topic. And what brings you here? What are you passionate about? Why are you engaged in Open science discussions? You present and moderate a lot and facilitate a lot of the conversations for Open Science and Open Access. Who are you? What are you doing here?

Paola: I’m here because you invited me kindly to be here. I’m very glad for this opportunity, Jo. So Yes, I’m Paola. I am Italian in the sense that I was born and raised in Italy, but I immigrated around ten years ago, almost eleven now, so I’ve been living in Belgium since then. I live in Ghent eating chocolate and French fries. This is the town or the city where I did my PhD in Sciences and Bioinformatics. And actually, it’s where my love for my passion for open science and open research practices in general actually was really born. I clearly remember the first time around when I finished with my first research article and I had to publish it. And I clearly remember not liking the whole revision process. But my supervisor was telling me that that’s how the peer review works and you need to stick with it. And it doesn’t matter how long it takes and it doesn’t matter how rude people are. You have to do what they ask you to do because it’s super important that you publish that Journal. I remember him telling me that we had to sign a Copyright transfer agreement, which I found very peculiar. And I clearly remember having him telling me that after we were done publishing the paper, we didn’t have access to it anymore. I really thought that it was hilarious. “What’s happening here?”

Jo: When you think about it like we did all the work and now we can’t even work anymore.

Paola: I spent all these months doing the research. I spent months writing the research, which is also something that I was and still I’m not super good at. I spent six months waiting for those reviews to come back. I spent another two weeks doing all those modifications. Finally the article was accepted. I had to transfer the Copyright because it didn’t belong to us anymore, basically to the authors. And then in the end, my professor didn’t tell me that I could pay an extra fee to make it Open Access, and I didn’t know how things worked. To be honest, I was really ignorant in that sense. But after that, I realized, oh, crap, it’s not behind the payroll. I can’t even have access to it anymore. My institution had access to the subscription of the Journal, so I could have access. But outside of that, I couldn’t have access to it anymore. And that’s where I thought, okay, I want to understand how these all things work. I want to understand how it is that it is this way, why it was born and constructed this way. And when I realized that it didn’t make a lot of sense, I actually wanted to start advocating for a change. And this was actually at the beginning of my PhD. But it was only in 2015, I believe it was that I went to an event in Brussels where I actually met Jon for the first time. And I heard for the first time in my life and also in my life as a PhD student and as a researcher, people talking about Open Access, people talking about an alternative, a different way to do things than what we were and unfortunately still are used to. And those were the years, indeed, where I started advocating for Open Science, and I really wanted to become an Open Science champion. Of course, I have changed a lot since then. Also, my ideas around Open Science and Open Access have changed and transformed, which I think is really important and relevant because that also means that I listen enough to many people in many perspective, like this podcast, for example, tries to do right, bringing different opinions, different points of view, different needs, different challenges, and try to capture all of that within the Open Science complexity framework. It’s not an easy task, but it’s really important. I don’t know if that gives a little bit of a background. 

Jo: Very much. Yeah. Thank you. And how would you say, because you said your perception changed on what Open Science and Open Access can achieve and should serve from your first encounter. Can you pinpoint the changes in your view on Open Science and Open Access? Or you can also just explain maybe twice what Open Science and Open Access means to you today and how it can be achieved in a way that is serving several stakeholders as we’ve come up with over the years. 

Paola: Yeah. I think that when I was younger and I was still a PhD student in those first years of my advocacy, I was very much focusing on Open Access and how we can make sure that the papers are free to read. And I really thought that if we did that, at least the Open Access problem would be gone. And in the years, I believe that my perspective on the open research practices has changed and it needed to change because I was too much focused on the issues of my field, the issues that we researchers face in Europe, which might be very much different from the challenges of people in other parts of the world. So I believe that when I stopped reiterating what the problem for us was that I started listening more to the challenges that other people were facing. I also realized that to make something free on the web doesn’t necessarily mean that something serves the right purpose, which is to serve society. And that’s when I also started to realize that you cannot have open research practices, if you do not make sure that whatever is free is also accessible to everybody. The two things are not necessarily the same i f you don’t come up with sustainable ways for people to make those resources for free. So, for example, I used to think that, okay, if we have article processing charges models where we pay a fee and then we make sure that our paper is open, I can sleep good at night; my paper is free. But not everybody is capable of doing that, because money is scarce, because resources are not equally distributed around the world. I have to tell you that. And the other thing that I learned, especially in the last two to three years, is that we cannot have this conversation around open science if we also don’t talk about how researchers are assessed around it. If we keep evaluating the way we do research and researchers, because of the publishing, our infrastructure journals, or because they publish a lot of papers, if these are the things that we keep deeming relevant, we can talk about open science all we want. Nobody would ever embrace these open research practices. So now I would say if I look now at my thoughts about open science with respect to, I don’t know, five or six years ago, these thoughts are much broader. And I’ve also realized that it’s a very complex thing to do where you need to make sure that the needs and the challenges, the wishes of different people are all taken into account if you really want to have open and global science. So a rather complex thing, but it’s really important that we do it. 

Jo: Yeah, I agree. Also mentioning article processing charges, like what I often hear from other  career researchers when I ask them about what they know about open science already, then they say, oh yeah, we know about open access. We had a seminar and we know that our library pays for the APCs. First of all, that’s not what open access is trying to do or is meant for. It’s just one way to finance your access. And yes, there are costs that are incurred that need to be covered, but they certainly don’t exceed any couple of hundreds of euros or dollars. And some stakeholders charge just that for only profitable reasons. And that’s the only reason. 

Paola: Absolutely. 

Jo: Whereas also, if you’re willing to pay the APC or ask your library to pay it don’t you think the money is taken away from something else, like human resource, I mean, probably not the researchers responsibility to consider all of that, but to say, oh, my library pays for that is one thing. And then I made an effort to provide for open access. And yet there’s a pressure to publish in certain journals. And what I see as my responsibility as a trainer and consultant is to provide options. There are more options that are available. And yes, we also need to inform the management, the research managers, the decision makers, the career advisors, career centers to not assess by where people publish. This is  also, what I learned, what was made explicit to me by Jon, he was the first who I encountered to deliberately remove the Journal’s names from his CV. And this is the first one. And this is what I’ve been preaching ever since. It doesn’t matter where you publish it. The only thing that matters is what you publish, and that’s your research and the venue should only matter to a degree, that it covers the same scope of research that you are presenting. And that’s the only measure. 

Paola: Yeah, absolutely. This also makes me think that my strong feelings for the current publishing system are very much borrowed from Jon in the sense that hearing him talk about how the old scientific production system works and hearing him saying very explicitly that it’s a huge pile of nonsense, let me say nonsense here. It really clicked with me. And especially in the last few years, we kept telling each other how we could allow so much control to be with those profits publishing houses, and how we could play this game where at the end of the day, researchers have no say whatsoever in how they would like to publish what they would like to publish, in which format and with which money. It’s absolutely unbelievable. Such a stupid, stupid game. And it also reminds me that when I did some of the talks around this, I had to tell people why the impact factor doesn’t make any sense. I think nowadays you need to tell these less to people. I start to see that many more people realize why it’s such a stupid metric. Back three or four years ago, this was perhaps not always the case. And when I had to present and tell people why this was bad and it was wrong, I would send my slides to Jon and he would say, oh, this is so brilliant. Please use all your Italian fury to tell them that this is a pile of bullshit and that we shouldn’t do this and we shouldn’t play this system. I mean, it’s so true and it’s so obvious, and yet it’s so difficult for this radical transformation to happen. It’s unbelievable. 

Jo: Yeah, that’s right. I mean, I also find myself not having to explain what the impact factor actually says. Sometimes I make that an exercise in my workshops, like put it up, do the math, and then tell me how that’s a measure for quality. It’s not. It’s not built for that. It’s a measure for impact, but only for that one Journal you’re looking at. And that’s the end of the story. And it was a measure for librarians to choose which channels to subscribe to. But we are way beyond that now with a mass of research output that’s being produced.

Solution oriented is my favorite. What’s a better practice then? What are the low hanging fruits? How can a researcher easily comply with open science principles without stretching and risking their career? That’s also one of Jon’s favorite sayings, like you don’t have to break the bank to publish open access. There are easy ways to do that. And also free of charge or very low charge, if you want to spend a budget on APC’s, and also if you want to kind of as an institution or research or research Department, want to use your budget to also invest in open scholarly infrastructure because they are to be covered. The only question is who’s going to cover this cost and to what extent? It doesn’t mean that only the researchers have to cover all of the expenses. There’s other stakeholders.

I’m very closely working with the researchers, and I think the researchers are the ones who, at the end of the day, are making the decisions where they publish. And as you said, if the research assessment wouldn’t change, they will continue to be forced to publish in high impact, no matter what. The institution policy is also slowly changing things. The most part, I would guess, as of DORA, the San Francisco Declaration, open research assessment or on research assessments? Not necessarily open, but it’s very much open in practice. And I think the only thing they say is I do not make your decisions and assessments dependent on the joint impact factor because it’s not a quality measure. There’s better ways to do that, and the better ways in doing that is actually showcasing practices of institutions from around the world. Okay, but then the question again is what can a PhD student do to serve open science and not to have to break the banks to publish and to convince their supervisors? Because most PhD students tell me, I totally understand and comply about what you’re saying, Jo. It’s just my supervisor asked me to do the opposite. 

Paola: Preprints are very cool. They don’t necessarily answer the question for full open access compliance because, of course, when you post a pre-print, that means the peer review still has to happen. And that means that indeed, that your manuscript is not peer reviewed yet. It hasn’t passed the scrutiny from the scientific community. I somehow think, however, that the diversity of the review that you can collect through pre-print is already by definition what we try to achieve with open science. It’s not only a matter of being open, it’s also a matter of being transparent, collaborative, and diverse. So collecting reviews from a bunch of people, researchers from the web, and not to the usual two, three that you don’t even know who they are. And it’s all inside a black box. There is no control and no scrutiny. I would argue that it’s a much better way to do peer review than what we are used to, but nevertheless, so preprints are very cool. Usually it’s very easy and there are different servers very well, depending on what you want to publish, depending on your discipline. I have published pre-prints in the past, and I’ve also seen that at least in the life Sciences, for example, where my professional background is, they are becoming now way more common and used than what it was like five, six, or even ten years ago when I started my PhD. And with the pandemic, with the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen that there was this rise of pre-prints. Now, if it is there to stay, it’s a little bit hard for me to tell, especially because, as you were saying before, it’s also important what we put in the research assessment. If I have my curriculum and I need to apply for a grant, I need to apply for a teaching position, promotion, whatever. Can I write in those that I do have a preprint? I understand it’s not a peer reviewed article, but it’s still a story that tells what type of research I have done and to which extent that research has value. So for me, the answer is yes. Will that preprint be considered in the same way as a peer reviewed article? Maybe not, but it is an output and it should be there. If you ask me another thing, of course it’s green open access. So try to post a version of the article whenever compliant with the Journal where you’re going to publish in institutional repositories. Which again brings the question to how can institutions make sure that the open access and publishing infrastructure are actually sustainable? And it all boils down to how we make sure that we prioritize our investment efforts? Where is your research institution actually using the most of the budget for this? And making sure you have librarians open research infrastructure in making sure you have data stewards that also take care of the older research data management part, which we could also open. But it’s an entirely different discussion. Or is the budget spent on an incredibly high subscription? Because once again, you are unfortunately playing the game. I know it’s difficult to talk about money, and I wish I didn’t have to talk about money, but at the end of the day, you need money to build solutions that are sustainable. And I don’t know if this is actually happening within institutions, but yes, going back to what PhD students can do at the end of the day without breaking the bank. I think preprints and green open access are great things to do and in the broader open science terms, also, of course, opening up their data if possible, opening up to the code that they use to analyze their data. But I think it’s also beyond that. What really helped me towards the end of my PhD was also to keep an Open notebook, where I would just also tell people the stuff that I did that did not necessarily lead to a publication. Because again, we need to cherry pick what we are going to publish. If I come up with a null result, no Journal would be interested and the output of months and months of research will stay in a drawer because it’s not good enough to be published. But yet, there is a lot of information there. So I think I am talking about many things now altogether. But that’s also something that PhD students can do if they believe that what they are doing is valuable to some extent because their hypothesis did not come out through or because they tried to do an experiment with two or three factors that were not supposed to be together and the outcome was not what they expected. It’s still very valuable information. Imagine if somebody else reads that and they say, I wanted to try this, but look, it doesn’t seem to be working. Maybe I will change this factor with these other factors and maybe the experiment will turn out.

Jo: Exactly. 

Paola: If you don’t find that information anywhere on Google, on the web or whatever, then it’s all a waste of money. So that’s also something that researchers should do more and could do more telling each other what they do way beyond the PDF in the Journal. I think in this 2022 it’s still ridiculous that months and months of unforeseen research needs to be trapped in a PDF page limitation, reference limitation, and a certain amount of figures. It’s just ridiculous. 

Jo: Yeah, I think it makes sense in the sense that Journal articles tell a story. It’s a lot of storytelling. And storytelling is a way for humans to communicate with each other. So there’s like a beginning, an end and an outcome, like a solution, something that’s being presented there’s actors and molecules or people. It’s kind of storytelling in a way. But I agree and I think that’s beautiful. Because preprints are meant to be versions based on the feedback that’s coming in and also continuous research by the co-authors or contributors. So I see preprints more like Google Docs or Living documents. 

Paola:Yes. 

Jo: Continue to evolve as long as there’s money for the research to be done, or as long as the same group of people and contributors can also grow or shrink over time. But the same project is being worked on and information is being edited. There’s also now initiatives like Science Octopus, where to detach or to inform the manuscript version, which again, like serves storytelling and absent communication and easy comprehension to interlink the underlying data sets, to also update inversion docs to add more images, like you said, of informative illustrations. And we have more to offer. Should we hide that? And yes, we can stuff some journals in the section for company resources, or there’s several words for that. Anyway, some journals provide that section, but then it’s just a lump of additional stuff that’s also linked to the research, where I think each research outcome because a data set, an image, a graph that was designed for text, deserves its own standing and can also evolve further. And then shall we talk about FAIR a little bit, because FAIR was established as a best practice or principle between findable, accessible and operable and reusable for data sets. But I think couldn’t the same principles be applied also for manuscripts and presentations on any research outcome? That’s what I think. 

Paola: So. I think so, yeah. I mean, there are some things like the interoperable concept that you might think, okay, this applies maybe to some digital objects, that it’s a little bit richer. Right. Because when you say interoperable, you mean that that specific data set can then be opened between different machines and that it’s readable not only from a person, from the human point of view, but also from the machine point of view. So maybe that aspect there it’s more about indeed, data sets as we know them, what we usually mean when we say data sets. But I think that the FAIR principles can indeed be applied to every research object that we produce. Would it be a protocol? Would it be a data set?  Would it be software? The FAIR  principles, have been, I’m not going to say extended, but really repurposed entirely just for software, because the code that you write to analyze specific data sets and answer specific research questions should also make sure that people know how to find it, that it’s clear how you can access it. What is the license? To which extent can I repurpose and reuse it and extend it and modify it? It should be interoperable. So that means you should have a license that is also open and that can be run across different machines and indeed usable, as I said before. How can I use it again for other purposes and for other research questions? Sorry, go ahead. No, go ahead. 

Jo: I just wanted to add to that. And also programmers and data scientists can finally gain credit for putting work into coding, because much code is being used by other researchers and the Biosciences men subject whatever, or also social Sciences and humanities. And what astonished me when I learned about a couple of years ago that there’s hardly any recognition of code being used or algorithms being used or the people who actually programmed that, and that’s now being addressed also with the FAIR principles to extend or rather like the credit taxonomy to acknowledge any contribution to a research project, results, presentation kind of thing. 

Paola: Yeah, that’s cool. So it boils down also, of course, to how you make sure that software citation practices are in place and data citation as well. So the major thing that you need to do is that findable part, which is where you don’t just take your research output, let’s say the piece of software you’ve written and you put it on a repository, but you also make sure that it’s in a repository where it gets its own DOI, the digital object Identifier. And like that, you can link the DOI of your research article with a DOI of your software, and each piece becomes a little bit independent from each other. But yet part of a major story. Of a bigger story. And then people can choose indeed, which parts they want to cite you and to give you credit for, which I believe from an assessment point of view, makes a lot of sense because there is way more to doing research than just writing the article and publishing it. 

Jo: Yeah. And it serves like the whole workflow, all the work that goes into a research project for everyone who contributes to being acknowledged and possibly assessed for the quality of work, but only based on really best research practices and not metrics or misconceived metrics that were invented for another purpose. So the future looks bright?

Paola: On paper it looks really promising, right? If you really look at what has happened, I’m amazed. Now when I do talks around open science and I do workshops, I think you can also testify that there is no more convincing to be done. People know why this is important. People see why we cannot afford to lock science behind payrolls. We cannot afford for research outcomes to not be accessible, discoverable, reusable. It’s a huge waste of money. It’s a huge waste of human resources, of human capital, if you want. And I don’t think that there are major parts of researchers that still need to be convinced about this important transition to happen. And now it’s time that we actually do the job. And I mean, for example, the final recommendations on Open science from UNESCO has clearly shown this. There’s no more convincing to be done. And we are slowly moving towards a common understanding of open science where we know what are the major elements that need to be there. But somebody now needs to sit down and actually make sure that this is implemented and then it becomes a reality. Jo: Yeah. I think that’s what I’ve observed as much as I preach FAIR principles, Open access principles. What other principles? Explaining convincing is one thing, and there’s a lot of agreement, as you said. But now people always say that yes, they know how. There is no answer to that, unfortunately, like, not in a workshop like I provide for, because you have people from, even when they would like for a change, from the same discipline. They all work on different projects and different aspects of one project, all of which need specific FAIR requirements, not only on the project level, but also on research item level. So it’s quite detailed what we’re calling for when we ask for fair principles. So therefore, I don’t think there’s any major or general recommendations that can be placed as an example. But you have to actually declinate. I don’t know if that’s the right term in English.

Yeah. I mean, there are lists and approaches. What do you need to consider, like machine and human readability? And then what data item are we looking at? How can it be made both human and machine readable? What algorithms do we want to apply to make it machine readable? So there’s a lot of very specific questions, but I think the price would be with use cases. I’m still struggling to find a way on how to showcase the FAIR principles in action in a workshop. I haven’t found an easy access point there. And also on any FAIR principles websites, any organizations who promote the FAIR principles have any specific examples showcased. So what’s your experience there? 

Paola: Yeah, I think I understand what you’re saying, and I think this stems from the fact that the FAIR principles are principles and they are completely agnostic from technical implementation. And this is a strength and it’s a weakness. At the same time, I believe it’s a strength because they provide a conceptual framework which will allow when you go and you look at the implementation for different disciplines to preserve their uniqueness, the fact that they have unique challenges and unique needs. So you cannot really come up with, let’s say a cookbook with ten recipes you go from one to ten, and your data is FAIR. That is very hard to put down for all the disciplines. And every research project, as you say, will have its own unique, distinct challenges. So I also found myself and still find it challenging to provide practical things for people to actually make their data FAIR, and this would be very much dependent on their research subject.

So in a sense, that strength also becomes a little bit of a weakness because it’s hard to tell people how to make that happen for their own research data. But there are some common practices, or let’s say best practices that I believe you can borrow and translate from one discipline to the other. If you think about a persistent identifier, a DOI that can be associated no matter what the research object is, it is a protocol in the life Sciences. It is a survey from social Sciences, it is a survey from the political Sciences. Anything that is a box that contains something that can have a persistent identifier. But to go back also to what you were saying about how we make sure that researchers do this. I think the answer is that we shouldn’t expect researchers to be able to do everything. It’s just not possible. It’s not possible for researchers to be able to do everything or to be able to have the energies and the time to do everything, come up with the research hypothesis, write down their ground, actually sustaining their funding, doing the research, writing the articles, doing the reviews, reviewing for other people, sitting into promotion committee, and so on.

Jo: There’s a lot.

Paola: And now we come up with these beautiful FAIR principles. The last thing we need to do is to go to researchers and tell them here, study the principles and come up with a way to make all your data compliant to this. What? People would scream. They don’t know and they don’t have the time to do this. And some people are not equipped and they don’t have to be equipped. If you need to do a research data management plan, you cannot expect somebody that has never looked into managing a data box to be able to go and fill in all the fields in there as if they know how to do that. 

Jo: Yeah, I’m getting a heart rate when I think of it. 

Paola: We need support. They need support. There is a shift in how we do research. There needs to be a shift in how we assess research. But I still have to see people come stand up and say we need to support researchers in what they’re doing. And I understand that money is scarce, as we said before, and that competition for these resources is high. I don’t think it’s possible to transition to full, open or FAIR principles if we don’t invest in human resources. We need to open up jobs for people to be able to support researchers to do this.

Jo: Yeah, I agree. I’m glad you mentioned that. I think a lot of the money can also be liberated if publishers in Journal editorial teams acknowledge their original purpose and existing in the first place. Meaning for me, the value that they add is on the curation level, because the peer review they merely manage, they write emails to researchers, hey, can you look at this study? Because they don’t do that like our long work themselves. They coordinate it, which in itself is a bit of work. I agree. But again, that’s still a matter of maintaining a database of hundreds of researchers and then going through the list and emailing them. And this can also be automated. So easy. But what I’ve seen journals and publishers do less and less of is the curation of the research to build collections based on themes and topics. We have climate change ravaging this planet. We have more peace and stability and conflicts and wars ravaging this planet and humanity. We have water scarcity. We have ocean acidification. We have all kinds of global challenges to deal with. And we have a globally connected, digitally connected scientific community. So we need everybody to think again, including the publishers and editorial teams. What are we good at? What can we actually solve best? I think journals are here to curate information that’s coming in. I don’t think it was my idea, but it’s quite recent that I had a discussion and then I just want to pitch this further, like the idea where researchers are pitching to or actually paying a lot of money to get published in certain journals. Can we revert that and have researchers publish a screen of an access and repositories and on the website and institutional repositories or preview servers wherever so the research is readily available. Journals and publishers can look at that through machine reading. They can have automated processes to curate content and then pitch to the researchers, hey, how about you consider us to publish your work? And here’s what we offer. And then again, how would they then make revenue? Because they would rather have to invest in scholarly infrastructure, but also for some years to come. I think they could because they put the revenue. But okay, that’s not likely to happen. So what then could be the revenue model in this game? But that’s also what other people are already thinking about these scenarios. But I just like the idea for journalists and publishers to be there for curation and curation only to serve and formatting assistance, maybe also outsource some of the services that we only need. Like, as I said, data curation, data management. I mean, many publishing houses already have expertise and infrastructure for that. It’s just that we don’t want to foster monopolies or we want to have a diversity of service providers in the system. 

Paola: I was reading an article in The Guardian. I think it was yesterday or two days ago, very recent. One researcher was asking, if we should get rid of journals or papers altogether? And despite the fact that particularly I’m not really a fan of how the publishing system works now, that is not a surprise anymore. We’ve established that. I believe journals have meaning in them. And I believe research articles have a scope of very specific goals. And as I said a little bit before, they tell stories and we need something that tells the final story. But it’s just we should find a way for that story to be reached with all the other things that we know are there. I would love the idea, indeed for publishers to come to researchers and tell them, would you like to be featured in our Journal and this is what we can pay you? I don’t think it’s very sustainable and I don’t think I will see this type of transformation in my lifetime. But who knows? Who knows? 

Jo: Yeah. I think they can sell services to some degree and then offer payment and others like we also do currently. 

Paola: Yeah. 

Jo: Just know how the workforce works. Okay, so you and I, we met also working together under the leadership of Jon Tenant with the Open Science MOOC. We were also on the steering committee together for some time creating content for some of the modules which were out there being utilized. I think three of them.

Yeah. Okay. Long story short. Okay. So there’s two organizations to talk about for some minutes. So the Open Science MOOC being not so much an awesome organization of some sort but more an educational platform. I think it was conceptualized also for open science practices and now IGDORE is, I always have to look it up, even though I’m a member myself. 

Paola: The Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education. Yeah. There you go. Jo: It’s just so very long; brain capacity. By the time I have the second word, outspoken, I forget what the other is. So IGDORE is now adopting or has non sort of adoption of the Open science MOOC. And let’s maybe talk a little bit about how far we’ve come with bringing the open science MOOC to life and what’s to come now that IGDORE is considering the operation. 

Paola: Yeah. As I hear you asking the question, I’m trying to think when Jon had the first idea for the Open Science MOOC, I don’t remember the year. I know that I’ve been through my emails, my correspondence with him a long time ago and I still found these letters that we basically wrote together with Evo, Jon, Me and Evo. I think it was 2018 or the end of 2017 asking people, hey, we want to build a platform for people to actually learn open science. Can you give us money? And spoiler alert, we didn’t get any money, but we did form the Open Science MOOC. You talk about a platform. But for me what the MOOC has always been was a community initiative. 

Jo: Yeah. Because the word for the acronym comes from  ‘massive open online course’, which originally was a good format for this to take shape of. And then eventually I agreed. I just said it was a community. I think it still is a community. It is like more than 1000 members or maybe hitting two. 

Paola: Yeah, it’s big. I think this was also one of the big gifts of Jon to bring the people together, but then to keep them together. So the MOOC is why we’re both here today somehow, right? It all started from this idea that if we want people to actually embrace Open research practices, we need to be able to tell them how to do the work. A little bit of what we were saying before at least the basics now to get more familiar with what open Science is and what it entails in their daily job. We have worked on a few modules and people could already enroll in education platforms which unfortunately then shut down. And then of course with the personal live episodes in the last years of Jon’s life and then after that he suddenly passed away. Everything was put to a rather stop. I mean it was only normal for people to gain their energies back and their strength back. And I speak for myself. For example, I haven’t been able to do anything or to even look at the MOOC for a couple of years.

It was too hard thinking about it and thinking about Jon. But now we have finally a sitting committee. The current sitting committee of the project has asked if IGDORE as an institution, as a virtual hub that promotes open and collaborative research practices, would be willing to adopt the project and to give it a house for governance and for future and for further development. And IGDORE is more than happy to do that. So we have now formed a legal education working group within IGDORE. Most of the people in this group, including me, are IGDORE affiliates, some are not. They might consider joining IGDORE in the future. It doesn’t really matter. So yeah, there will be some work put into the open science MOOC because I believe it’s still very valid and it’s still very relevant to have some, even if it’s a GitHub book that people can read if they are interested in open code rather than open data. But it’s also for me, of course, on a personal level, a way to honor Jon’s memory and Jon’s legacy because he has done a lot for the field. He has done a lot for open science, for the community. And the least we can do, I think, is to bring forward future development to what he has initiated. 

Jo: Yeah, totally. And his vision was also always to keep the educational resources with the Open science MOOC free of charge. Now that we talked a little bit about money, is there a plan already or basically what’s being worked at currently how to sustain; because development is going so quickly in the open science era. Also because much is so much tech based and technology is being developed rapidly. But also IGDORE is a strong community and very much tech team with many data scientists also as members. Not only so I’m also not a data scientist but a member.

I remember the conversations going around. So how can we sustain this? Because there’s so much work going into it. Eventually some of us will exhaust ourselves because everybody that’s what I usually say for being an entrepreneur or even also for employee researchers. There’s so much time we can invest on a voluntary basis. So is there a way to institutionalize that with an institution like IGDORE? But then there’s also funding opportunities. There’s service opportunities that can be leveraged for groups. I think there’s many ways to monetize them and still keep individual users. 

Paola: Yeah, indeed, we have to start working towards this type of sustainable development. Indeed, we are scouting for funding opportunities. And it’s only true that there is this amount of voluntary work everybody can do. And this makes me think again of what Jon used to say. At the end of the day, what matters the most is your physical and mental health. And that means that Open Science tasks need to go to hell for a day or a week or a month. Well, they can go to hell. There’s nothing more important than your own personal wellbeing. This is really for me, a life changing lesson I learned from him. 

Jo: Yeah. 

Paola: Nothing can come before that.

Jo: He left a couple of YouTube videos on only that, like Jon Tenant’s, meditation lectures. Paola: Yeah. 

Jo: Very much science focused, researchers’ focused. As a researcher, yes meditate, you might doubt it, but here’s why it makes sense. It was just this week that I had listened to his voice again because listening to recordings or seeing him live on recorded presentations brings all the memories back to the set. So, yeah, the pain is still there, but I don’t know if it’s less.

Paola: It’s a different one, I guess. At least for me.

Jo: I think so, yeah. 

Paola: It’s a different pain.

Jo: But I mean, these videos, we have them, we can disseminate them. We can or don’t have to watch them ourselves because I think we learned our lessons from Jon as we worked, and we’re lucky to work with him and call him a friend for some time. And others are yet to benefit from learning from him directly through these recordings and projects that he initiated and many of which he also finished and produced the actual outcome that serves Open Science at large. Paola: Absolutely.

Jo: Yeah. Okay. 

Paola: Okay. 

Jo: Any concluding remarks like what’s your personal mission with Open Science moving forward in your career? Where do you see yourself in the next three to five years?

Paola: I don’t know if Open Science is still part of my career. For me, it’s really mostly really advocacy that I do, and most of it I don’t make money out of this. What I would like to see is some work being done to actually make it become a reality. So I think I’m going to follow closely if possible, the actual work on the implementation of the Open Science UNESCO recommendation and also on the training part. I really would still want to work on the MOOC and make sure that the community stays alive and actually produces an outcome that can be used by everybody. So, yeah, I don’t know. It might sound a little bit vague that I don’t have a clear vision. I mean, I would like many things to happen, but most of them are just desires. And I don’t think I will have the leverage of the courage to make them happen. I want to keep listening to the different voices. For me, that’s very important. And I think what you’re doing with this podcast is really nice because indeed, it’s access to perspectives. It’s a channel. It’s a bridge that connects many people, many backgrounds, many experiences, and different parts of the world. For me, Open Science without this means nothing. So I would like to keep listening to all these different voices and keep learning, become a better person, set the example whenever possible and make my mistakes. 

Jo: Yeah, because it’s part of life and it’s human. 

Paola: Absolutely. 

Jo: As long as we aim at least to learn from them. I keep repeating some mistakes in my life. 

Paola: Absolutely

Jo: Maybe because I don’t see them as mistakes. I don’t know what sometimes presents itself as a mistake or something counterproductive might actually be the right thing. It’s just not the right time to unfold. 

Paola: Yes. 

Jo: I think the important thing is to keep asking why and then questioning the status quo is what Jon did big times and also encourage us to for sure and many others to do more strongly with a straight back and put your foot down kind of approach. 

Paola: Yeah

Jo: I had to speak up for justice, any time. Jon was one of few people only who I have as role models to actually speak out when we witness injustice at whatever level, institutional, systematic, and individual. Injustice will always be there. There is always an equity in some. There’s also a natural law speaking as a biologist here. But as long as there’s evil in the world, we also need a counter force and positiveness otherwise, why would we be as human beings? We’ll be in touch and you’re welcome back to this show whenever you want to speak out. Thanks for making time for this today. 

Paola: Thank you so much for having me. Bye.

References (related research articles)

  • …